Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights

How It All Got Started 013: Lina
Free serial fiction from author and creator Matthew Wayne Selznick.

Monday, June 18, 1984

Lina didn’t have to be told; once she got home she went directly to her room to cool her heels until her father got home. Given that she was supposed to be full of regret and dread, she resisted putting a record on her stereo. Rocking out to Husker Du would probably paint the wrong picture, no matter how much she wanted to distract herself from what was to come.

Thing was, she was feeling some of that dread. It would totally suck—no, it would be beyond suckage—if she was grounded on the first day of summer. The way her dad had been clamping down lately, though, she couldn’t ignore the possibility.

There were three soft, perfectly spaced knocks on her door. Lina knew it was her little brother.

“Come in, Tim.”

The door opened and Tim shuffled in, head pointed down and to the left. His lips turned up in a very quick smile. “Lina.” He closed the door behind him.

She straightened her spine and put some cheer in her voice. “How’s it going today, big guy?”

Tim sat down on the edge of her bed and she joined him. He leaned in so their shoulders touched slightly. Lina gently pushed against him.

“Did you do something bad?”

Lina sighed. “Mom and dad think so.”

Tim shook his head. “You shouldn’t do bad things, Lina.” She felt him tense. “Bad things are bad.”

Tim didn’t react well to stress in the house. He was especially sensitive when it came to his big sister. Lina felt lousy.

“I know,” she said. “Sometimes…” How to explain this to him?

Tim was only two years younger than Lina, but emotionally he was like a little kid. His brain didn’t work anything like most. He was an amazing little guy and Lina loved him more than anything else in the world, which made this all worse. She didn’t want to upset him.

She took a breath. “Sometimes it’s hard to know you’re doing something bad.”

This must have surprised him. He looked right at her. “It is?”


His head went back down. “Wow.”

She laughed. “Yeah. Weird, huh?”

“Yes.” He pointed at the bedroom door. “Are you waiting for dad?”


“Uh oh!” His micro-smile shined like the sun for Lina.

“We’ll see, big guy.” She had a hunch and walked over to her bedroom window. Her father’s Mercedes was just pulling into the driveway below. “Go butter him up for me, huh?”

Tim seemed to think that was really funny. He chuckled. “Okay, Lina.” He stood up, crossed to Lina to give her a light tap on her shoulder (his version of a big hug), and went downstairs to meet their father.

Lina waited until she heard Tim walk back up the stairs, past her door, and into his own room before she abandoned the safety of her bedroom and went to face her parents. They waited for her in the living room.

Her mother had apparently filled in her father. He was barely through the door when he got right to it. He didn’t even loosen his tie.

“Where were you today, Lina?”

She tried for a semi-truth first. “This girl, Tammy. I hung out with her and her boyfriend.”


“Ian’s place.”

Her father’s eyes narrowed. “And that is where?”

“San Juan,” she said. “That mobile home park. Y’know?”

Her mother was on the couch. “Why did you lie about what you were doing?”

“I dunno…”

Her father said, “Look at me.”

Lina met her father’s eyes. It wasn’t easy.

“Was Eric there, Lina?”

The reply was a mental flinch, automatic and feeble. “No.”

He shook his head. “We’ve had a lot of practice with you, Lina. Try again.”

It was no use.


Despite the fact they had both already figured this out, Lina’s mother and father sighed and put on their best “very disappointed” faces.

Her mother sounded terribly sad and exhausted. “Lina…”

She didn’t say anything.

Her father’s face was stony. “This is the last time, Lina. We’ve told you how we feel about him.” He glanced at her mother, who nodded and looked at the rings on her hands. “You’re grounded.”

And there it was.

Lina bit her lip.

“How… long?”

“I don’t know,” her father said. “Until we decide we can trust you again.” He looked at her mother. “How long will that take?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. We’ll see.”

“But…” This was unacceptable. Not now. Not for the summer! She thought fast. “But… don’t you want to know why?”

Her father sat down next to her mother and finally loosened his tie. “We’re listening.”

“I… I broke up with him.”

They didn’t say anything. She pressed on.

“I hadn’t planned on it, but… when we got to Ian’s place…” She thought about the dishes, the bed, the bong, the general mess of Ian’s little trailer. “…he’s such a slob, and, and there was… there were drugs there…”

“Drugs?” Her mother paled. “Lina, this is exactly—”

“I know!” She nodded quickly. “I know! I just… I guess I had to see it all for myself. I… I just kinda…” She realized she was fumbling. She skipped ahead in the story she was playing out in her head. She thought about the vodka; what Eric had tried to get her to do…

The day had been emotional enough that she was able to channel that into her speech. “I broke up with him on the drive back to the mall. Told him I just wasn’t into that stuff.” At that moment, she believed it.

That probably helped. Her father looked at her mother. Some unseen parental telepathy thing happened, and he said, “I’m glad you came to you senses.”

She shrugged. “It sucked.” She cringed at the unintentional pun only she would understand.

“But you’re done with him?” Her mother asked.


Was she?

“That’s good.”

Lina put her hands together, pleading. “I’m sorry I lied. I am. I’m—I can’t help pushing back sometimes… it’s a teenager thing; it’s what I’m supposed to do, right?” She smiled weakly. “It’s in all the movies..?”

They stared at her.

Tough room.

“I’m sorry. But if I hadn’t seen him today, I wouldn’t have figured it out. Right?”

Her father nodded. “Go on.”

“So please, please, please… don’t ground me. Please. It’s… it’s summer.” It didn’t take any acting to bring the moisture to her eyes. She really, really didn’t want to miss summer. “Please?”

More parental mind-talk. Lina stood there, helpless.

Her mother said, “We’ll think about it. Go to your room until it’s time for dinner.”


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